Monday, October 31, 2011

New Second Century Text of John?

A Comment in an earlier post referred to this article (New NASA technology reveals ancient texts) which claims, among other things:
NASA super cameras, developed originally for military surveillance and scientific surveys and adapted for work at the St. Catherine library, now can reveal in amazing detail not only smudged or damaged surface portions but also the earliest and most intriguing strata of the palimpsests. Incredibly, these cameras even make it possible to read documents wholly or partly destroyed by fire.

And what has the Texas-led team discovered so far? Among other things, an extremely ancient portion of the Gospel of John, perhaps dating from the second century and which contains wording missing in the conventional biblical text.
There would seem to be some potential problems with this. For a start one wouldn't expect many second-century texts of John on parchment (required for a useful palimpsest).


  1. Probably this palimpsest is parchment, but text on papyrus can be washed off and the surface re-used (e.g. the Tura commentary on Psalms by Didymus is a palimpsest).

  2. I wonder what "wording missing in the conventional biblical text" means? Are they claiming to have a second century mss of John that includes the pericope adulterae?

  3. It could mean almost anything.

    Nowadays the order is:

    (1) press release first (typically contains obvious inaccuracies); (2) other scholars are asked to give media comment on the initial press release; (3) pause; (4) further media flurry; (5) scholarly publication; (6) peer comment showing how stage (1) was highly misleading.

    There are variations on this, but (1), (2), (5) and (6) are pretty regularly in this order.

  4. I got this reply from Michael:

    "Please do not get too excited.
    The Galveston blogger was a bit sensational, but had never heard much
    about this stuff before, esp. the Multispectral Imaging, which was the real
    subject of my presentation. This was an illustration of its potential, as
    this particular ms. (a well-known one) has not yet been sampled using MSI.

    The "new" ms. is merely M-Syriac 30 from St. Catherine's Monastery (aka
    Sinaiticus Syriacus), Syriac palimpsest over the Old Syriac gospels. The
    image I showed was a page of John.

    I am well-aware that there are no early 2nd cent. mss, papyrus or parchment,
    including P52.

    Best to all.
    Michael White"